David Bowie, the eternal superstar had a deep affection towards Japan and Japanese style. Most famously is his relation with Japanese costume designer Kansai Yamamoto. They met during Bowie’s first trips to Japan in the 1970s. Later Yamamoto created some of the most iconic stage outfits of the British singer-songwriter.
“I don’t know why he was so attracted to things Japanese, but perhaps it wasn’t so much Japan or Japanese-ness itself. He knew when he looked good in something.“ – Kansai Yamamoto
Bowie’s Japanese style had already been developing through his interest in Japanese theatre. In the 1960s he studied together with dancer Lindsay Kemp, who was heavily influenced by the traditional kabuki style. There he also got his first contact with „onnagata“ acting – men dressing up as women.
This knowledge helped Bowie to become a real „shapeshifter“ and explorer of his masculinity. Yamamoto once said that “through his style and performances Bowie broke one sexual taboo after another”. One of Yamamoto’s most famous outfits is the Space samurai, a black, red and blue outfit adapting the hakama.
Japan paid back the love Bowie had for the country. Bowie inspired many Japanese musicians and even took part in the film “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”, directed by the renowned Nagisa Oshima. There, he also met Ryuichi Sakamoto with whom he became good friends.